Simplifying Sentences

In the preceding three lessons, you learned that helping words, adjectives, and adverbs do not affect the underlying clause pattern. So what should we do with them?

If you can easily identify the subject, verb, and object(s) of a sentence, then you can simply ignore them. However, as you start to analyze sentences of greater complexity, you may sometimes find it helpful to "cancel out" these words. Try writing the sentence on a scratch piece of paper and physically crossing out all the words that you don't need. The words that are left are the subject, verb, and object(s) of the sentence.

Study the sentences in the table below. Notice how each of these sentences has been "reduced" or simplified by crossing out all the helping words, adjectives, and adverbs. The words that remain form the base clause.

  Simplified Sentence Clause Pattern

The water was extremely cold.

equative (S=C)


Suzy returned yesterday.

intransitive (SV)


I am going to tidy my room tomorrow.

transitive (SVO)


I saw Sally today.

transitive (SVO)


I will call you later.

transitive (SVO)


I will leave now.

intransitive (SV)


I saw that movie last year.

transitive (SVO)


Yesterday, the tall man gave the fat woman a very expensive watch.

ditransitive (SVOiOd)


Instructions for the Quiz

Find the base clause by cancelling out all the helping words, adjectives, and adverbs.